Several years ago, a former palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, wrote a widely circulated article, based on her discussions with dying patients, describing the regrets they shared with her in their final period of life. The top five were featured in an article on her site and she has since turned the article into a book. Last week the web site addicted2success listed 10 Regrets In Life By Those About To Die. This week I am discussing five of those regrets.
I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. (Ware)
Poorly Focused Career Life
Some people have to work hard and unsatisfying jobs to pay for a lifestyle that requires a lot of money. They sacrifice joy of a delightful career in order to have a certain type of car, a second home, or other signs of wealth. If a person wants to make this sacrifice, they are free to do it. However, many older people, especially men, wish that they would have pursued a career that they enjoyed and not one that required long hours of unpleasant work. Even working your dream job has many tasks and requirements that are not pleasing but overall the job brings satisfaction. Considering the average person works at least forty hours a week at a job (often more), one should pursue a career they enjoy with people that they are pleased to work with.
I don’t think work should be the central part of our life but a means to help us accomplish more important goals. Serving God should be the center of our lives and work can help us accomplish that heavenly work. Ecclesiastes 2:10 and 18-26 speaks bitterly of the hard work one does while he lives only to leave the things he bought with the money he earned to others who might not appreciate or take care of those things. This was work that was performed under a hot sun and often with sorrow and problems that kept him awake at night. Instead, the writer encourages us to enjoy the work at hand, the simple pleasures of life, and a relationship with God. Working hard for money we cannot spend or enjoy is emptiness.
Non-Career Work Priorities
Even outside of the job world, we can keep ourselves so busy that we do not simply enjoy life. We can get involved with very good charities, social organizations, government, and outside activities and not spend adequate time alone or with family. There are many people and organizations that will take as much time as we will give them and ask for more. It is great to get involved with a charity or organization that helps others because of the impact you can have on other people’s lives in making the world a better place (link). However, you need to determine how much time you will give so you can have time for yourself, your loved ones, and other obligations in your life. As in the previous post, you have to learn to say “no” to good things in order to say “yes” to better things. People will not always understand or appreciate your decision but they don’t have to. They have the responsibility for their choices and consequences, you have a responsibility for yours. They may want more out of you, but you must feel free to give what you want and say “no” to what is beyond those bonds.
My kids are involved with band and so my wife and I are involved with the band boosters. We have a great group of parents and a good band. My wife and I were treasurers and I served as vice-president for a couple of years. The booster club really wanted me to be president but I knew the MANY responsibilities of the job. I declined because to do the job well would take away from my work preaching, writing for this blog, work with two camps close to my heart, and time with my family. I had pressure to be president but a stronger desire to do these other things. If I would have taken the job due to guilt or pride, I don’t think I would have done a good job and all of these other areas would have suffered as well. As it was, I determined to be a good booster club member and supported the president who did a great job.
For a satisfying life, consider the teaching of Ecclesiastes 9:7-10:
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.
Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [the grave], to which you are going. (ESV)
The advice is to enjoy the pleasures of a simple life. Enjoy the simple pleasures earned through work that you do with your best effort. Enjoy the people in your life. The book of Ecclesiastes points out how trying to find meaning in life in fame, great wisdom, wealth, or pleasure will only result in sorrow. The real life experiences of people in every generation continue to reinforce the wisdom of this book. Remember this the next time you hear of a beautiful (or handsome), wealthy celebrity who is suffering from substance abuse, alcoholism, depression, or who committed suicide because these things did not bring them happiness. What a contrast when you see some who live in poverty who are smiling because the things they value in life are not things.
Remember the words of 1 Timothy 6:6-10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (ESV)
Other posts in this series: